TCB Tuesday Mailbag: You've got questions, we've got answers

Scott Cunningham

Have a question about the Astros? We'll answer it here!

Happy Tuesday Astros fans! It's been a long season up to this point; I feel pretty burned out by all the losing baseball, and with school starting back up, I'm finding myself less and less interested in the Houston Nine as the calendar nears October. But there's a lot to look forward to this offseason, and in Jeff Luhnow's front office, we never know what's going to happen.

We've chronicled a Tuesday morning mailbag for a couple of weeks now, and I'm looking forward to writing this feature in the future, hopefully every week. If you would like to submit a question, send us a tweet @CrawfishBoxes or send an e-mail to tcbmailbag@gmail.com and I'll be sure to answer it on a Tuesday.

Is there an importance on building a winning attitude in the minors versus fielding a better team in the majors?- Eric E.

There certainly seems to be an organizational importance of winning minor league titles, and I think that's a great perspective on developing talent. This question has been brought up many a time in regard to George Springer this summer. Springer is very much ready for the major leagues, but he was kept on the Oklahoma City roster throughout the playoffs. OKC was eliminated a week or so ago, and Springer hasn't been called up, and likely won't be.

There have been a lot of informative pieces explaining why Springer hasn't been called up (Astros County wrote a good one). As I see it, the front office wants to see what they have in the outfielders already in the majors, like Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Trevor Crowe and Brandon Barnes.

Is Lucas Harrell still with the organization in October? I'd have to think its pretty much over for him. - Dave G.

It's pretty incredible that Harrell was in the conversation to start opening day right? Here's a list of what's gone wrong for Lucas this season:

-Pulled from the rotation supposedly for an attitude problem in July
-Complained about the tendency to shift the infielders, showing that his attitude is not in line with the Astros front office philosophy
-Given up more walks than strikeouts
-HR/9 has doubled from 0.60 in 2012 to 1.22 .

I'm not sure what you can do with him right now; any trade value he had after his decent start to the season is now gone, yet he's not even in the rotation anymore and there will be even more competition in the spring when Alex White, John Ely and whatever is left of Kyle Weiland get healthy. Luhnow could flip him straight up for a young bench bat or include him in a deal with another player like Brett Wallace, but the Astros might just be better off hanging on to Lucas and try to regain that sinker that made him so successful in 2012.

Why are the lines on Tal’s Hill smaller then the lines on the rest of the field?- Joshua R.

Huh, I've never actually noticed that. Blame Bud Selig.

Will J.D. Martinez ever be productive for the Astros?- Anton J.

I get the feeling that J.D. Martinez's time in Houston is nearly up, and that's just accounting for the flux of outfield prospects near the majors. Springer will have a starting spot for opening day, with Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker not far behind. The latter two aren't shoo-ins to become quality major league starters, but they have more upside than J.D. Throw in the likes of Grossman, Hoes and Brandon Barnes holding their own, and you have a strong competition for the left and right field spots in the spring.

One thing J.D. has going for him is his power potential. He's hit 24 homers in his major league career and has a career ISO of .138, 37 points higher than the next highest, Brandon Barnes. Martinez has done that in a larger sample of plate appearances, and though his defense his much more of a liability than Barnes or Grossman, the Astros may want to keep him around next season as a cheap bench bat with some pop.

How are you feeling about Keuchel's beard? I feel like it has a chance to be something special.- Xwing A.

Keuchel's beard has a ton of #want, but I'm pretty excited for Nolan Fontana's underrated goatee to come through the system, not to mention what Josh Zeid has brought to the table so far.

Who will the future rotation members be, and who will be the roster cuts to create 40 man space?- Michael V.

I'll take a stab at the 2014 rotation (in order).

1. Jordan Lyles
2. Jarred Cosart
3. Brad Peacock
4. Free Agent (Phil Hughes/Chris Capuano/Scott Kazmir)
5. Brett Oberholtzer

I like Keuchel as a long reliever in the future, I think Bedard gets cut, while White and Weiland won't be ready for opening day. John Ely starts the season in Oklahoma City, and Paul Clemens...well I'm not really sure what to do with him. I do think we'll see Mike Foltynewicz and Mark Appel at some point next year though- get excited.

As for roster cuts in the offseason? Bedard, Crowe, Cody Clark, Humber, Pagnozzi and Thames get cut. I also think it could be the end of the line for Marwin, Harrell and Paredes. Additionally, I'd like to see Crowe and Bedard brought back as Non-Roster Invitees if they don't get a guaranteed contract elsewhere.

Where do Astros babies come from?- Astros County

Carlos Lee?

What will the Astros outfield look like in 2014? Seems like there are a lot of candidates for playing time- Christopher E.

Yep, it will be a packed competition in Kissimmee this spring. George Springer already has the centerfield spot locked down. I think Grossman gets the call in left and Hoes starts in right, though I would like to see an somewhat-ambitious move in the free agent market for a corner outfield bat. Corey Hart's name has been thrown around. He's been injured all year and the Brewers may want to part ways, and I think he'd be a good bounce-back candidate on something like a 2 yr/$15-20 million deal. Other options are Adam Lind, David Murphy and Chris Young. Carlos Beltran's name has been tossed around, but he's having another great year and probably wants to pay for a contender. Which leads into our next question...

Can you see us signing Hunter Pence this offseason a la Jayson Werth and the Nats a few years ago? The rebuilding cycle runs parallel.- Brock

Jayson Werth signed a 7 yr./$126 million contract with the Nationals after 2010, a season in which they finished 69-93. The Nationals of a few years ago and the current plight of the Astros are similar, but not exact. The Nats had a solid, young crop of players already in the majors with a lot of upside, guys like Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Morse, and Danny Espinosa, Stephen Strasburg and Wilson Ramos in 2011. Bryce Harper was the last piece in 2012. The Astros have comparable talent, but most of it is currently at the lower minor league level. I don't think Jim Crane will spend any serious money, or what it would take to get Pence until that talent is at or at least closer to the majors.

Who's on the bubble for Rule 5 projection?

Sorry to burst your bubble here (*ducks*) but it's a very long list. We'll have a comprehensive list of everyone up for grabs in the Rule 5 coming out soon, as well as analysis on who the Astros should protect, and who will be left unprotected. We will likely see someone get picked this year. Paredes, Austin Wates, Rene Garcia, Brandon Laird, Bobby Doran, Marc Krauss and/or Rhiner Cruz (again) are all candidates who I think A) won't be protected, and B) could get picked. None of those guys may make a 25 man roster and could come back to the organization, but we will most likely lose a guy.

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